Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) shares regular updates about the work of our global programs. Our US program, helmed by US Program Director, Daniel R. Mahanty, works with US institutions to protect civilians trapped in conflict around the world. This weekly overview of the US Program is authored by CIVIC consultant, Lyndsey Martin.
US MILITARY AND COALITION OPERATIONS
OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE
Heavy clashes over the weekend between Islamic State militants and the Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces killed dozens of civilians and fighters. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said at least 31 civilians were killed in Coalition airstrikes in the towns of al-Sha’afa and Hajin. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented at least 245 civilian deaths since September 10, when the SDF launched an offensive to oust the Islamic State from its last pocket of territory in eastern Syria.
The US-led coalition was responsible for 46 percent of all civilian casualties in Syria during the month of October, according to Action on Armed Violence. Although civilian casualties from Coalition airstrikes fell 79 percent during the first 10 months of 2018 compared to last year, there was a sharp uptick last month with at least 122 civilians killed in Coalition airstrikes in Deir Ezzor.
Coalition forces carried out 168 strikes between November 11 and 17.
MOST RECENT OIR CIVCAS REPORT(October 25): In the month of September, CJTF-OIR carried over 310 open reports from previous months and received one new report. The assessment of 104 civilian casualty reports has been completed.Out of the 104 completed casualty reports, none of the reports were determined to be credible and resulted in zero unintentional civilian deaths.The Coalition conducted a total of 30,247 strikes between August 2014 and end of September 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1114 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
“The U.S. has killed at least 66 civilians, 31 of them children, in the unsuccessful hunt for one man” – just one example in this incredible report by @mokhbersahafi on the hidden toll of American drones in Yemen https://t.co/y6nWVe0UcP
— Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) November 15, 2018
Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Total Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen)
Civilians Killed: 751 – 1,609
Children Killed: 252 – 369
Total Killed: 8,153 – 11,650
Minimum Confirmed Strikes: 5,846
Airwars (Total Iraq and Syria)
Minimum Civilians Killed: 6,716
Coalition Strikes: 30,875
Bombs & Missiles Dropped: 109,507
Democrats Call for an End to US Support for Saudi Arabia
In a statement on Tuesday, President Trump said that the US would maintain a “steadfast” alliance with Saudi Arabia and that “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder” of Jamal Khashoggi, despite an assessment by the CIA concluding that Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman was responsible for his death. Trump also said that canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be foolish, citing economic benefits of the sales.
The statement drew sharp criticism from members of Congress with many top Democrats calling for an immediate end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition and a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia
On the Congressional Agenda:
- Tuesday, November 27th – 9:30 am – Senate Armed Services Committee– Findings and Recommendations of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy
- Thursday, November 29th – 2:00 pm – House Foreign Affairs Committee– U.S. Policy Toward Syria (Part II)
SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND ARMS SALES
The State Department cleared three arms sales on Monday worth more than $944 million:
- Precision guided munition kits to NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency for an estimated cost of $320.5 million
- 32 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles to Japan, worth an estimated $63 million
- 8 SM-3 Block 1B Missiles and 13 SM-3 Block 2A Missiles to Japan for an estimated cost of $561 million
Over the past five years, the United States accounted for 61 percent of major arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
DRONE WARFARE AND TARGETED KILLING
An investigation by the Associated Press gives a glimpse into the civilian death toll from American drone strikes in Yemen at a time when the Trump administration has dramatically increased the use of drones. So far this year alone, at least 30 people killed in US strikes – about one-third of all those targeted – didn’t belong to al-Qaeda. This report by the AP tells the story of a Yemeni father killed in a drone strike while trying to stop his son from being recruited by al-Qaeda.
The Pentagon will withdraw hundreds of troops deployed to Africa over the next several years amid efforts to prioritize resources for “long-term competition with China and Russia.” Counterterrorism missions in several countries, including Somalia, Djibouti, and Libya, will largely remain the same, while missions in West Africa will shift from tactical assistance to advising, assisting, liaising, and sharing intelligence. There are currently about 7,200 US military personnel based in Africa.
The completion of a US drone base in Agadez, Niger will be delayed until mid-2019. The base was intended to be operational by the end of this year, but the region’s difficult weather and harsh environment has pushed it back. The drone mission at the base will serve “as an important ISR provider for local forces in West Africa.”
US Africa Command launched six strikes against al Shabaab in Somalia last week, bringing the total number of strikes this year to 35.
US forces launched a drone strike against AQAP in al-Bayda on Sunday, killing six militants. It is the 37thUS strike in Yemen so far this year.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Democratic control of the House will finally lead to real action and accountability for US policy in Yemen, Kate Kizer writes in Just Security. Democrats will “have an opportunity to take the mandate voters gave them to affirm that even supposed short-term security gains never justify massive human suffering, including the world’s largest famine, nor are they worth turning a blind eye to the torture, abuse and war crimes of our ‘allies.’’
Dafna Rand offers lessons drawn from US involvement in Yemen for future partnered operations in Lawfare.
In the Intercept, Murtaza Hussein writes that while some American politicians have recently expressed concern over US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, “there has been far less appetite to similarly criticize, or even account for, the many other conflicts where the United States is directly responsible for the violence, despite monumental death tolls, refugee crises, and other sobering evidence of human suffering.”
- November 26: International Committee of the Red Cross– The Principle of Proportionality Under IHL: Launch of the ICRC International Expert Meeting Report
- November 27: Carnegie Endowment– Treatment Under Siege: Mental Health in Gaza
- November 29: US Institute of Peace– Building Peace from the Bottom Up: Postwar Peacebuilding and Local-Level Interaction
- December 3: The Brookings Institution– Ending Gaza’s Perpetual Crisis
- December 4: The Brookings Institution– Asia Transnational Threats Forum: Counterterrorism in Asia
- December 4: US Institute of Peace– Voices of the Afghan People
- December 5: US Institute of Peace– Building Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies Amid a World on Fire
- December 5: Atlantic Council– Stabilizing Syria: Toward a Human Security Framework